“Salvation” is… “the Gift of God”
Perhaps you at one time pondered “the gift of God” of Ephesians 2:8-9, asking is the gift to be understood as being… salvation, or is it grace, or is it faith?
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is THE GIFT OF GOD: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
Ephesians 2:8-9 is really not complicated. It was one of the first passages that grabbed me as a new believer in 1968. I first heard it quoted when I was on a step-ladder painting around a window while a Christian radio station in Newark, New Jersey quoted the verse. It struck me so powerfully in that moment.
I understood it to mean that salvation was God’s gracious and free gift, and that faith was how we received this gift.
It was not until I began reading certain theologians that I became aware of the other interpretations. May God help us not to complicate and corrupt the simplicity of Paul’s grace gospel message, a message so straightforward and simple that even a child can understand it.
First, “grace” is the operating system of this age of “the dispensation of the grace of God” in which we live today. Grace itself indicates a free gift, that is not of works or of human effort to gain that which is being dispensed to and into believers.
The question we are considering is this; is it salvation or is it faith that is “the gift of God” in Ephesians 2:8-9. What is “the gift of God” which is referred to in these verses?
This is a key question which must be carefully answered. There are basically two possible common answers to consider. There are many who teach that the gift of God referred to in this passage is the FAITH necessary for salvation. Others teach that the gift of God mentioned here is SALVATION itself.
So, is it faith or is it salvation?
The key to understanding Ephesians 2:8-9 is to correctly identify the antecedent of the pronoun “‘that’ not of yourselves:”
Does the pronoun “that” (v.8) refer back to ‘faith’ or does it refer to ‘salvation’? There are those who say that “faith” is ‘the gift of God’ and others who say that “salvation” is ‘the gift of God.’
Let’s consider the two prevailing interpretations of Ephesians 2:8-9 among those in Protestant Christendom.
#1 – ‘Faith’ is the “Gift of God”:
In this case the verse would be rephrased as this:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and this faith is not of yourselves, this faith is the gift of God, this faith is not of works, lest any man should boast”
(In this case the antecedent of the pronoun is identified as “faith”).
Most “Reformed Theologians” (e.g., Dr. John MacArthur, RC Sproul and more) understand ‘the gift of God’ in Ephesians 2:8-9 to refer to ‘FAITH.’ This raises some interesting questions, actually a twisted dilemma. Satan of takes the simple truth and twists it to distort and confuse the truth of the word of God.
Just consider the implications of this view.
If saving ‘FAITH’ is the gift of God, then how does the sinner receive this gift? Does he have to pray that God will give him the gift of faith?
Does he hope that God will sovereignly bestow this gift of FAITH upon him so that he can be saved? What must he do to have faith?
Then also the dilemma twists further in that Reformed Theology teaches that for a person to be saved,
- God must first bestow upon him the gift of saving FAITH… and
- before he receives this gift of FAITH He Must First Be Regenerated,
- because Reformed theology teaches that Unregenerate Sinners Who Are Dead In Sins are Unable to Believe. This creates a dilemma that is unworkable.
Charles Spurgeon was a strong 19th century figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, yet Spurgeon gave this good answer to those who insist that regeneration is necessary … before a sinner can believe. Spurgeon wrote:
“In our own day certain preachers assure us that a man must be regenerated before we may bid him believe in Jesus Christ; some degree of a work of grace in the heart being, in their judgment, the only warrant to believe. This also is false. It takes away a gospel for sinners and offers us a gospel for regenerated saints (already). It is anything but a ministry of free grace.
If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is (already) regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed!
Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” [Charles Spurgeon, in his sermon, “The Warrant of Faith.”]
Some Reformed men carry the idea of “regeneration precedes faith” to a ridiculous extreme. For example, the highly acclaimed R. C. Sproul and others teach that it is possible for an infant to be regenerated and not come to faith in Christ until years later. This is but a ridiculous shade of Catholicism among so-called protestants.
The view which insists that regeneration precedes faith is inconsistent with the clear teaching of the Bible. For example,
John 1:12 simply says; “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” It does not say: “As many as have been regenerated, to them gave He the power to believe on His Name, even to those who have become the children of God.” John 1:12 teaches that those who receive Christ by faith become children of God (that is, they are born of God or regenerated).
John 20:31 says, “believing ye might have life.” It does not say, “having life ye might believe” (which is what one would expect it to say if regeneration precedes faith). Numerous passages in the Gospel of John teach that LIFE (eternal life) is the result of believing in Christ (John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24; 6:47; etc.). Reformed teachers say LIFE results in FAITH. But the Bible teaches that FAITH results in LIFE. The Biblical position is that a sinner is regenerated the moment he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
#2 - Salvation is the “Gift of God”:
We could restate Ephesians 2:8-9 for emphasis and utter clarity as follow:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and this salvation is not of yourselves, this salvation is the gift of God, this salvation is not of works, lest any man should boast”
(In this case the antecedent of the pronoun is identified as “salvation” which is the idea of the main verb “are ye saved”).
This view is clearly reflected in the Independent Fundamental Churches of America doctrinal statement which says;
“We believe that SALVATION is the GIFT OF GOD brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
This well-worded statement makes it clear that salvation is the gift of God and this gift is received by personal faith.
The gift is salvation; the receiving of that gift is by faith alone.